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An effective way to get the most out of your resources is to do bench-rest testing. As you test and understand how your firearm performs with different load combinations, your marksmanship will improve also.

To develop effective loads, always refer to the owner’s manual for your firearm. Know the manufacturer’s recommendations before you begin.

Your firearm usually will shoot more accurately with some loads than with others. Only testing determines the best load.

  • Test the firearm and loads, not your marksmanship. Using the bench-rest position isolates firearm performance as well as load efficiency, while still improving your shooting skills. Your goal in bench testing is to make the shots as consistent as possible. The best loads deliver the smallest groupings on the target.
  • Use the scientific method to perform the testing.
    • Use checklists to organize the elements you’re testing, the order of testing, and the steps involved so that nothing is forgotten.
    • Isolate and test one element at a time (projectile, powder, patching, and so on) while keeping other elements consistent. Record all of these scenarios in a notebook throughout the entire testing process. Include all specifics related to the firearm; the ammunition variables; information about the target, range, and procedure; and basics such as the date and location. Record velocity if you use a chronograph.
    • Eliminate all high-level variables which would compromise your results. For example, avoid testing in windy conditions.